By Yunus S Saliu & Mama Touray
The World Bank in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, on Saturday, 25th March 2023 held a forum to review the highlight of achievements in the health sector which covered a period of 2020 to 2023.
The review held at the Sir Dawda Jawara Conference Center attracted a large crowd from different sectors and was attended by high dignitaries which included ministers, members of the diplomatic corps, and the UN System representatives, and was supposed to be witnessed by His Excellency President Adama Barrow.
In her remarks, Ms. Feyi Boroffice, World Bank Resident Representative welcomed people to the gathering that highlighted the World Bank’s support to the Health sector, “part of the mid-term review of the Gambia Health Services Strengthening project and completion review of the COVID-19 Preparedness and Response project.”
She noted that The Gambia has seen many positive changes in the health sector over the past few years, and the World Bank is proud to have been a part of this progress, stating that they had one of the first COVID-19 projects at the World Bank here in The Gambia and was approved in record time in April 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Since then we have committed $110 million in grants to the health sector,” she noted and continued that “The World Bank has supported health initiatives across The Gambia, with a focus on improving access to quality healthcare services for all. Our goal has been and remains to help build a healthcare system that is responsive to the needs of the people, and one that ensures that no one is left behind. We have supported a range of initiatives to improve health outcomes, including the construction of new health facilities, the renovation of existing ones, and the improvement of medical equipment and supplies. And also, invested in key areas such as maternal and child health, establishing health insurance, clinical waste management, human resources for health, disease prevention and management, and birth registration,”
According to her, countries like the Gambia need to invest more in strengthening their health systems to make them prepared and more responsive to future pandemics. Investing in healthcare and making healthcare accessible and affordable for all is critical to achieving sustainable development and ending poverty.
In his statement, Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health said the Gambia health system has continued to build resilience to better provide healthcare service to the entire population while dilated on the giant strides the government is taking to recover from the pandemic and provide the citizens with the required services for better living standards.
As part of the recovery, he said, the Ministry of Health has finalized its new National Health Policy 2021-2030 and its accompanying investment plan the National Health Sector Strategic Plan 2021-2026 with a vision to ensure a healthier and more productive population through Universal Health Coverage.
Minister Samateh added that access to health care services in The Gambia has been clearly articulated in the new green recovery National Development Plan (2023-2027) in the government during the lifespan of the new NDP will give priority to boosting investment “in our people to build the requisite human capital for improved living standards and to power the economy. This will be done through human capital development as it has been already demonstrated as part of the World Bank support to The Gambia.”
He alluded to other speakers, saying The Gambia has registered significant achievements “because of improved government and partner funding leading to access to much improved basic health services across the country.”
The Minister disclosed that the health sector still faces some challenges due to changing demography and disease profile – considerable increase in Non-Communcable Diseases (NCDs) and so on and to address these issues and other challenges mentioned earlier, “the government through the Ministry of Health has started taking major steps as part of the World Bank support to train health workers, refurbish, expand and equip the Primary Health Care facilities across the country,” he explained.
Through support from the World Bank, he continued, as established a post-graduate program for healthcare personnel in various categories and has also established a national health insurance authority to facilitate the rollout of health insurance to support the country’s Universal Health Coverage attainment drives.
The Minister thanked the World Bank leadership and the Task Team Leader for the Gambi to be particular for great work and guidance throughout the process of the project implementation and also thanked the development partners such as the Global Fund, GAVI, WHO, UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF, USAID, FAO, WFP, and several others “we truly appreciate your various interventions in the health sector.”